100 Best Restaurants 2008: The Oval Room

No. 13: The Oval Room

Cuisine: With its puréed fruits and vegetables, herb-infused oils, and delicately applied microgreens, chef Tony Conte’s brightly flavored food tastes straight out of revered chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s handbook. Which makes sense: Conte spent three years as executive sous chef of Vongerichten’s Manhattan flagship, Jean Georges.

Mood: By day, this airy dining room, with its colorful abstract canvases, is a favorite lunch spot for boldface names such as Condi Rice and George Stephanopoulos. By night, it feels more like a serious restaurant than a place to schmooze.

Best for: Power lunchers and anyone tired of cream- and butter-laden restaurant dishes.

Best dishes: Beet salad, a Conte signature of roasted beets with passion-fruit gelée and a mignonette made with ice wine; creamy burrata cheese with dried papaya, basil, and salt; an artful tuna tartare made with ribbons of raw fish, avocado, and crisped tapioca; burrata-filled ravioli with corn; New Zealand pink snapper accented with licorice and anise; seared venison with a quenelle of chopped dates and hazelnuts; butter-poached lobster with wasabi, peaches, and young coconut; PB&J vacherin, a layering of Concord-grape sorbet and peanut-butter ice cream with salted peanuts; apple-confit tart with a shot glass of mulled cider.

Insider tips: Ignore the Cobb salads and turkey club sandwiches. Here you can feel comfortable ordering adventurously.

Service: •••

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.